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Portuguese authors on demand at Buenos Aires Book Fair

At the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, which this year has Lisbon as the guest of honour, the demand for books in Portuguese has surprised the organisation. In the bookshop, as well as translated books, there are also works in Portuguese on sale.

The bookshop occupies the heart of the Lisbon Pavilion at the Buenos Aires Book Fair. It is a round table that embraces the centre of the space with which the Portuguese capital wants to promote Portuguese literature.

Lisbon Pavillion at the Buenos Aires Book Fair. Photo: Maria João Costa

As well as the unavoidable and much sought-after Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago, there are also books by younger authors who, in some cases, are still unknown to Argentinians.

According to Marcos Almada, the bookseller in charge of selling books at the Lisbon pavilion, in the first week of the fair - between 23 and 30 May, including the first two days of professional days - more than 350 books were sold.

As for the best-selling authors, the bookseller said that there is a balance between classics and contemporaries, and of the former, "Fernando Pessoa is undoubtedly number one", but Eça de Queirós and José Saramago are also extremely popular. Among the contemporaries, Marcos Almada highlighted Gonçalo M. Tavares and Lídia Jorge, who sold out in the first few days.

"Given the Argentinian [economic] crisis we're going through, with books being expensive and people having no money, we were very surprised by the number of sales, because normally the cities we're invited to don't have as many sales as the publishing groups," said Marcos Almada. Even more surprising, for the bookseller, is the number of Portuguese-language books being sold.

"This shows that there is an idiosyncrasy for reading in Portuguese, in addition to the demand from visitors from Brazil," he said, explaining that in addition to the natural curiosity of those who want to try reading in Portuguese, there are academics, teachers and translators, but also students, because "in state schools there is Portuguese as a second language".

In one of the largest book fairs in the world, the opening ceremony was marked by criticism of the budget cuts for culture imposed by the new ultra-liberal President Javier Milei.

Book sales fell by around 30% in January in Argentina due to the economic situation, high inflation, the rising cost of paper and low wages.

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